• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

How Often Should I Bathe My Shih Tzu? Vet Approved Advice


Mar 24, 2023
wet dog Shih Tzu under bath towel


wet dog Shih Tzu under bath towel
Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Most dogs don’t require bathing that often. However, the Shih Tzu is an exception to this rule. They need bathing at least every 3 weeks, though some may do better with a bath every 2 weeks. Their coats are made of “hair” and not “fur,” so they aren’t waterproof. Unlike other dogs, their coat doesn’t do a good job of staying clean. You’ll need to wash and care for your dog similarly to human hair.

You should always use a gentle dog shampoo, as they can have sensitive skin (especially when being bathed so often). Feel free to adjust the frequency of baths depending on your dog’s needs. Dogs with longer coats often need more baths than those with shorter coats. If your dog has a skin condition, they may need more or fewer baths, typically using specific shampoos/lotions recommended by your veterinarian.

Many factors determine how often you should bathe your Shih Tzu.


Factors that Affect Bathing Requirements

Not all Shih Tzus need the same number of baths. There are many factors involved that will determine how often you should bathe your canine. It is best to personalize bathing frequency to your dog’s needs instead of strictly following a one-size-fits-all schedule.

Coat Length

Dogs with longer coats require more baths, as there is more hair to get dirty. A Shih Tzu’s coat doesn’t stay clean well, so you’ll need to groom them very frequently and bathe them more often than other dogs. If you want to lower your dog’s grooming requirements, cutting their coat shorter can reduce the number of baths and amount of brushing they require.

Shih Tzu barking at something
Image Credit: Alexas Fotos, Pexels


Many Shih Tzus develop skin allergies from environmental allergens like dust mites, molds, pollen, and weeds. The best way to reduce their symptoms is to limit their exposure to these allergens as much as possible, which means more frequent baths to “rinse them off”. You may need to bathe your dog more frequently during certain times of the year to help prevent allergens from sticking to their coat for too long.

Activity Level

Dogs that spend more time running around outside tend to be dirtier than dogs that spend most of their time lying around. Puppies often need to bathe more for this reason. However, even older dogs can be quite active and require more frequent baths.


Some climates can make dogs dirtier than others. You may need to bathe your dog more often if you live somewhere particularly dusty. Similarly, those living in tropical areas may need to bathe their Shih Tzu more regularly, as the mugginess can lead to bacteria growth (and a smelly and itchy dog).

Shih Tzu Dog
Image Credit: 12122, Pixabay

Skin Sensitivity

Some dogs are rather more to baths. If your dog has sensitive skin, you may decide to bathe them less often. Baths can cause skin irritation and dryness, only worsening coat health. Sometimes, the best option is to spot-clean your dog, increase brushing, or deal with a slightly dirtier dog between baths.


Certain health problems may increase bathing needs. If your dog is sickly, their coat may not be as healthy as it once was, increasing their bathing requirements. At the same time, puppies and healthy dogs may need fewer baths.

divider-dog paw

How Often Should You Wash a Shih Tzu’s Face?

You should wipe your Shih Tzu’s face at least once a day. These dogs are known for dirty areas around their eyes, largely due to their flat faces. If you don’t keep their eyes clean, they can develop eye problems such as infections or scratches

Sadly, there is no way to reduce their bathing requirement. Even if you cut your dog’s coat short, they will still require daily face cleanings. It is not recommended to cut the hair around their eyes short. Once it starts to grow back, it may grow in the direction of the eyes, causing discomfort and even scratches. It is generally best to make face washings a regular routine. There are face wipes specifically made for this purpose. However, a damp washcloth works just as well.

There might be times when your Shih Tzu requires eye drops. Using the eye drops at the same time as you clean your dog’s face typically works best, as some of the liquid does tend to run out of the eye. It’s best to do everything at once. If your dog does need eye drops, speak to your vet about your daily routine and follow their advice on how and when you should clean your dog’s eyes and face.

grooming shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

How Often Should You Wash a Shih Tzu’s Ears?

You should clean your dog’s ears as regularly as possible. Generally speaking, they may only need cleaning once a week. Dogs with extra hair in their ears or those prone to ear infections may need them cleaned more often. Adjust the frequency and the product used to meet your dog’s needs based on your vet’s advice.

Never shove anything into your dog’s ears. Instead, just clean the outer ear flap so that the debris doesn’t have a chance of going into the ear. You shouldn’t wipe using a damp cloth, as this can introduce bacteria and moisture. Instead, look for specialized ear-cleaning wipes. In my experience, these often include witch hazel and similar cleaning agents.

You may also want to use drops to clean your dog’s ears. Never shove q-tips into your dog’s ear, as this can push the gunk back further. Specialty ear drops can help loosen any gunk trapped in the ear and kill bacteria. When in doubt, always speak to your vet about the best option for your canine.

Shih Tzu Grooming Routine

Shih Tzus require a lot of washing and grooming. It can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. Here is a short grooming routine that may help you stay on top of things. Feel free to adjust it to meet your dog’s needs:

person using hair dryer on black and white Shih Tzu
Image Credit: Leeyakorn06, Shutterstock


  • Wipe your dog’s face as needed (and apply any necessary eye drops)
  • Brush teeth using a quality dog toothpaste
  • Brush your dog’s coat (if longhaired)

Every Few Days:

  • Clean the ear flaps
  • Brush your dog’s coat (if given a medium- to short-length cut)
  • Use a dry shampoo as needed (especially for longer coats)

Every 3–4 Weeks:

  • Bathe your dog with a gentle shampoo



Shih Tzus have high grooming needs. You’ll need to spend a little time grooming these dogs daily. However, they only need a bath every 3–4 weeks. You don’t want to bathe your dog too often, as this can lead to problems such as dry and itchy skin. Not bathing enough can lead to skin problems, too, so finding a happy medium is important. Speak to your veterinarian about your Shih Tzu’s coat and skin needs. It is important to note that these may change throughout their lives depending on many factors such as their diet, environment and general health.

While we described most Shih Tzus in this article, your dog may need slightly different care. Many factors determine how often your dog needs to be bathed, brushed, or wiped. Feel free to adjust my recommendations to better fit your dog’s needs.

You can speak to a professional groomer about your dog’s specific needs when in doubt. Shih Tzus often require professional grooming, so there is no reason not to ask for advice when you pick them up from their appointment.

Featured Image Credit: Magicovice516, Shutterstock

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